European Journal of Psychology of Education

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 207–221 | Cite as

Pupils’ pedagogical well-being in comprehensive school—significant positive and negative school experiences of Finnish ninth graders

  • Kirsi Pyhältö
  • Tiina Soini
  • Janne Pietarinen


Basic education has two main goals: to promote high quality learning outcomes and pupils’ personal growth and well-being. The interrelated nature of learning and well-being is here referred to as pedagogical well-being. In this study, we explore Finnish comprehensive school pupils’ (N = 518) experienced pedagogical well-being by examining the kinds of situations that pupils themselves find either highly positive or highly negative during their school career. Pupils’ pedagogical well-being is empirically examined in two complementary aspects: (1) determining the point in the pupils’ school career in which the critical incidents are situated and (2) identifying the primary contexts of pupils’ experienced critical incidents of pedagogical well-being. Results showed that critical incidents for pedagogical well-being reported by the pupils were situated all along their school career. A variety of episodes causing empowerment and satisfaction, as well as disappointment and anxiety, were reported by the pupils. Pupils perceived the social interactions within the school community as being the most rewarding as well as the most problematic part of their school career.


Basic education Comprehensive school Pupil Well-being Learning Pedagogy 


L’éducation fondamentale répond à deux objectifs : promouvoir des résultats d’apprentissage de haute qualité ainsi que la croissance et le bien-être personnels des élèves. Nous appelons bien-être pédagogique l’interdépendance intrinsèque à l’apprentissage et au bien-être. Notre étude explore le bien-être pédagogique ressenti par les élèves de l’école de base finlandaise (N = 518) en examinant les situations considérées par les élèves comme étant hautement positives ou négatives pendant leur cursus scolaire. Le bien-être pédagogique des élèves est empiriquement examiné sous deux angles complémentaires: (1) en déterminant le point du cursus scolaire des élèves où se situent les incidents critiques et (2) en identifiant les contextes primaires des incidents critiques affectant le bien-être pédagogique ressenti par les élèves. Les résultats indiquent que les incidents critiques rapportés par les élèves dans leur bien-être pédagogique se situent tout au long de leur cursus scolaire. Un certain nombre d'épisodes causant une valorisation des élèves et leur satisfaction, mais aussi leur déception et leur anxiété, ont été rapportés par les élèves. Les élèves ont perçu les interactions sociales vécues dans la communauté scolaire comme étant à la fois la plus gratifiante et la plus problématique partie de leur carrière scolaire.



We wish to thank Annabel Battersby-Järvinen for the language revision. We also wish to thank the Finnish Ministry of Education and Finnish Work Environment Found for funding the research project Learning and Development in Comprehensive School.


  1. Anderson, L. W., Jacobs, J., Schramm, S., & Splittgerber, F. (2000). School transitions: beginning of the end or a new beginning? International Journal of Educational Research, 33(4), 325–339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Antonovsky, A. (1987). Unraveling the mystery: how people manage stress and stay well. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  3. Antonovsky, A. (1993). The structure and properties of the sense of coherence scale. Social Science Medicine, 36(6), 725–734.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Boekaerts, M. (1993). Being concerned with well-being and with learning. Educational Psychologist, 28(2), 149–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boekaerts, M., De Koning, E., & Vedder, P. (2006). Goal-directed behaviour and contextual factors in the classroom: an innovative approach to the study of multiple goals. Educational Psychologist, 41(1), 33–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bowen, G. L., Richman, J. M., Brewster, A., & Bowen, N. (1998). Sense of school coherence, perceptions of danger at school, and teacher support among youth at risk of school failure. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 15(4), 273–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brown, A. (1992). Design Experiments: theoretical and methodological challenges in creating complex interventions in classroom setting. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 2(2), 141–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Butler, R., & Shibaz, L. (2008). Achievement goals for teaching as predictors of students' perceptions of instructional practices and students' help seeking and cheating. Learning and Instruction, 18(5), 453–467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Collins, A., Joseph, D., & Bielaczyc, K. (2004). Design Research: theoretical and methodological issues. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 13(1), 15–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. De Corte, E. (2000). High-powered learning communities: a European perspective. Keynote address presented at the first Conference of the Economic and Social Research Council’s Research Programme on Teaching and Learning, Leicester, UK.Google Scholar
  11. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2002). Handbook of self-determination research. The University of Rochester Press.Google Scholar
  12. Ellonen, N., Kääriäinen, J., & Autio, V. (2008). Adolescent depression and school support: a multilevel analysis of a Finnish sample. Journal of Community Psychology, 36(4), 552–567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gillison, F., Standage, M., & Skevington, S. (2008). Changes in quality of life and psychological need satisfaction following the transition to secondary school. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 78(1), 149–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Giota, J. (2006). Why am I in school? Relationships between adolescents’ goal orientation, academic achievement and self-evaluation. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 50(4), 441–461.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gregory, A., & Ripski, M. B. (2008). Adolescent trust in teachers: implications for behavior in the high school classroom. School Psychology Review, 37(3), 337–353.Google Scholar
  16. Hakanen, J. J., Bakker, A. B., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2005). Burnout and work engagement among teachers. Journal of School Psychology, 43(6), 495–513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hakkarainen, K., Palonen, T., Paavola, S., & Lehtinen, E. (2004). Communities of networked expertise. Professional and educational perspectives. Oxford: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  18. Hofer, M. (2007). Goal conflicts and self-regulation: a new look at pupils’ off-task behaviour in the classroom. Educational Research Review, 2(1), 28–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hofman, R. H., Hofman, A., & Guldemond, H. (2001). Social context effects on pupils’ perception of school. Learning and Instruction, 11(3), 171–194.Google Scholar
  20. Huusko, J., Pietarinen, J., Pyhältö, K., & Soini, T. (2007). [The preconditions for undivided basic education in comprehensive school]. Yhtenäisyyttä rakentava peruskoulu. Yhtenäisen perusopetuksen ehdot ja mahdollisuudet. Research in Educational Sciences 34. Turku: Finnish Educational Research Association.Google Scholar
  21. Jindal-Snape, D., & Miller, D. J. (2008). A challenge of living? Understanding the psycho-social processes of the child during primary-secondary transition through resilience and self-esteem theories. Educational Psychology Review, 20, 217–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Konu, A. I., Lintonen, T. P., & Autio, V. J. (2002). Evaluation of well-being in schools—a multilevel analysis of general subjective well-being. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 13, 187–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Krapp, A. (2005). Basic needs and the development of interest and intrinsic motivational orientations. Learning and Instruction, 15(5), 381–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kristersson, P., & Öhlund, L. S. (2005). Swedish upper secondary school pupils’ sense of coherence, coping resources and aggressiveness in relation to educational track and performance. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Science, 19(1), 77–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lahelma, E. (2002). School is for meeting friends: secondary school as lived and remembered. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 23(3), 367–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lasky, S. (2005). A sociocultural approach to understanding teacher identity, agency and professional vulnerability in a context of secondary school reform. Teaching and Teacher Education, 21(8), 899–916.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lazarus, R. S., & Lazarus, B. N. (1994). Passion and reason: making sense of our emotions. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Lonka, K., Hakkarainen, K., & Sintonen, M. (2000). Progressive inquiry learning for children—experiences, possibilities, limitations. European Early Childhood Education Association Journal, 8(1), 7–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis. An expanded sourcebook (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  30. Morrison, I., & Clift, S. M. (2005). Mental health promotion through supported further education. The value of Antonovsky’s salutogenic model of health. Health Education, 106(5), 365–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Nonaka, I., & Nishiguchi, T. (2001). (Eds.) Knowledge emergence: social, technical and evolutionary dimensions of knowledge creation. Oxford University Press US.Google Scholar
  32. Paavola, S., & Hakkarainen, K. (2005). The knowledge creation metaphor—an emergent epistemological approach to learning. Science & Education, 14(6), 535–557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pallant, J. F., & Lae, L. (2002). Sense of coherence, well-being, coping and personality factors: further evaluation of the sense of coherence scale. Personality and Individual Differences, 33(1), 39–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pelletier, L. G., Legault, L., & Séguin-Lévesque, C. (2002). Pressure from above and from below as determinants of teachers’ motivation and teaching behaviours. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94(1), 186–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. PISA, Program for International Student Assessment. Retrieved September 2008 from,3343,en_32252351_32236191_39718850_1_1_1_1,00.html.
  36. Retelsdorf, J., Butler, R., Streblow, L., & Schiefele, U. (2009). (in press). Teachers’ goal orientations for teaching: associations with instructional practices, interest in teaching, and burnout. Learning and Instruction, doi: 10.1016/j.learninstruc.2009.01.001.
  37. Rimpelä, M., Rigoff, A. -M., Kuusela, J., & Peltonen, H. (Eds.). (2007). [School Health Promotion Study. Grades 7.-9.] Hyvinvoinnin ja terveyden edistäminen peruskouluissa—perusraportti kyselystä 7.–9. vuosiluokkien kouluille. Helsinki: Ministry of Education & National Research and Development Center for Wellfare and Health.Google Scholar
  38. Rimpelä, M., Kuusela, J., Rigoff, A-M., Saaristo, V., & Wiss, K. (2008). [School Health Promotion Study. Grades 1.-6.] Hyvinvoinnin ja terveyden edistäminen peruskoulussa 2. Perusraportti kyselystä 1.-6. vuosiluokkien kouluille. Helsinki: Ministry of Education, National Research and Development Center for Wellfare and Health.Google Scholar
  39. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2001). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 68–81.Google Scholar
  40. Salomon, G. (1996). Unorthodox thoughts on the nature and mission of contemporary educational psychology. Educational Psychology Review, 8(4), 397–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Savolainen, A. (2001). [School as a work place. Pupils’ and personel’s perspectives.] Koulu työpaikkana. Työolojen itsearviointi ja kehittämistarpeet oppilaiden ja henkilöstön näkökulmasta. (Doctoral Dissertation, University of Tampere 2001). Acta Universitatis Tamperensis 830.Google Scholar
  42. Schweinle, A., Turner, J. C., & Meyer, D. K. (2008). Understanding young adolescents’ optimal experiences in academic settings. The Journal of Experimental Education, 77(2), 125–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Seligman, M. E. P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology. An introduction. American Psychologist, 55(1), 5–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sheldon, K. M., & King, L. (2001). Why positive psychology is necessary. American Psychologist, 56(3), 216–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Silins, H., & Mulford, B. (2002). Schools as learning organisations. The case for system, teacher and student learning. Journal of Educational Administration, 40(5), 425–446.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Soini, T., Pyhältö, K., & Pietarinen, J. (2008). (submitted). Pedagogical well-being. Reflecting learning and well-being in teachers’ work. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice.Google Scholar
  47. Tarter, C. J., & Hoy, W. K. (2004). A systems approach to quality in elementary schools. A theoretical and empirical analysis. Journal of Educational Administration, 42(5), 539–554.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Torsheim, T., Aarø, L. E., & Wold, B. (2001). Sense of Coherence and school-related stress as predictors of subjective health complaints in early adolescence: Interactive, indirect or direct relationships. Social Science and Medicine, 53(5), 603–614.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Tuominen-Soini, H., Salmela-Aro, K., & Niemivirta, M. (2008). Achievement goal orientations and subjective well-being: a person-centred analysis. Learning and Instruction, 18(3), 251–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Van Houtte, M. (2006). Tracking and teacher satisfaction: role of study culture and trust. The Journal of Educational Research, 99(4), 247–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Van Petegem, K., Aelterman, A., Rosseel, Y., & Creemers, B. (2006). Student perception as moderator for student wellbeing. Social Indicators Research, 83(3), 447–463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Vedder, P., Boekaerts, M., & Seegers, G. (2005). Perceived social support and well-being in school: the role of students’ ethnicity. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 34(3), 269–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice. Learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  54. Wertsch, J. V. (1993). Voices of the mind: a sociocultural approach to mediated action. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Yin, R. K. (1994). Case study research. Design and methods (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  56. Zittoun, T. (2008). Learning through transitions: the role of institutions. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 23(2), 165–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Zittoun, T., Duveen, G., Gillespie, A., Ivinson, G., & Psaltis, C. (2003). The use of symbolic resources in developmental transitions. Culture & Psychology, 9(4), 415–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada, Lisboa, Portugal and Springer Science + Business Media BV 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kirsi Pyhältö
    • 1
  • Tiina Soini
    • 2
  • Janne Pietarinen
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre for Research and Development of Higher Education (YTY), Faculty of Behavioural SciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Department of Teacher EducationUniversity of TampereTampereFinland
  3. 3.Faculty of EducationUniversity of JoensuuJoensuuFinland

Personalised recommendations